The Coming Storm - Paul Russell
This novel tackles probably one of the most taboo subjects left in literature: under-age sex. More, it concerns an affair between a teacher and a pupil of fifteen.
This novel is a stunning piece of literature. The writing is lyrical, the plot dense and satisfying. The characters are finely detailed, especially the supporting characters.
The title of this book is very evocative. That's exactly what we witness: the build up to the inevitable storm over this illicit affair.
The beauty of this book is that it doesn't try to be politically correct; it tries to be honest: honest about people's desires and needs, whatever their age.
The book is a celebration of honesty against hypocrisy, and an extremely satisfying read as well.
If I have one minor criticism, it's that the book could have done with some heftier editing. Sometimes the build-up to the storm is too slow, or rather too detailed concerning the supporting characters. The main interest in the book is the relationship between Noah, the boy, and Tracy his (male) teacher. Although beautifully drawn, the characters of the Head, his wife, and their friends, can sometimes take the focus off Noah and Tracy.
If you are likely to be offended by a story that details a graphic, gay relationship between a teacher and his pupil, then don't read this book. If you want to understand what goes through the mind of a fifteen-year-old gay boy, and see how adults can end up in impossible situations, then definitely read this book.
If you thought slash
had to mean genre fiction or substandard writing then read this book and think
again. Literary and powerfully erotic, it is a challenging tale of forbidden
love and repressed desire that will make you question society's attitude to
illicit, underage gay sex in general and student-teacher relationships in particular.
Its content is controversial but it's written carefully with a genuine conviction
that must surely come from personal experience.
The central relationship between the 25-year-old Tracy, teacher at a New England private school, and the troubled youngster, Noah, is handled with sensitivity and realism. A thought-provoking look at gay men's attitudes to boys and the treacherous fire of desire they incite. It has finely drawn supporting characters, and a damning judgement on families who fail to understand those among them who dare to be different. Tracy is gay and vegetarian; a source of family strife and the focus of one intensely moving scene that left me in tears, seething with anger and overcome with compassion for a man trying to be true to himself. Noah too has been badly let down by his dysfunctional, broken family. The love he gets from Tracy is the first he's ever known. They have to keep it hidden because of society's taboo, yet his parents are free to ignore or manipulate him to suit their own purposes. Ultimately, it is a morality tale of sorts that seeks not to condemn its protagonists. You are what you are, and you cannot hide from yourself. But it takes courage and strength of character if you are not to end up a casualty like Tracy's friend Arthur, or in hiding from your true nature like Louis, the Head Master of the school. Tracy learns as much from the experience as Noah, and does not escape the consequences of his actions, though maybe not in the way you imagine. Noah has a good teacher in Tracy, in both the academic and personal sense. It's a satisfying and ironic contrast to the ethos of a school where education is seen as a way to take boys' minds from sex and inculcate the right, ( i.e. high achieving) middle class, repressed, values.
This fine book makes a fine balance to media hype about pedophilia and ought to feature in every high school library. I would have no hesitation giving it to a teenage son struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. A must read.
Publisher: Stonewall Inn
Editions. ISBN: 0312263031
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